Google keeps its ranking algorithms under lock and key so marketers and web developers can’t game the system. But that doesn’t keep people from speculating about what they are. Backlinko has done a great job of cataloging the factors for the past few years, updating them as a Google executive alludes to the importance of a factor or as the search giant lets us in on a change to the algorithm.
As Backlinko notes, some of these ranking factors are proven and some are purely speculative.
As content marketers or digital marketers, SEO is important. You should familiarize yourself with the full list of 200 ranking factors. However, knowing what’s a vital factor and what can take a backseat to your audience-focused content can be difficult. Here are 10 factors to focus on and three you might not want to prioritize.
1. Keyword in title tag. Your blog post, article or webpage should include important keywords—and the closer to the beginning of the title, the better. This is one of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors, so make sure you’re writing good titles for every page, article and post.
2. Keyword is most frequently used phrase in document. No, we’re not recommending you jam blogs and articles with keywords a la Google of the early 2000s. However, it is still important to Google (which equates to getting found) that you’ve got keywords in your piece. If anything, focus on long-tail keywords but continue to write for your audience.
3. Duplicate content. Google will penalize you for doubling up on content on your site and others. Keep this in mind if you’re using a bricks and feathers approach, where you’re creating one big piece of content and several smaller pieces of content to go with it.
4. Recency of content updates. There’s so much content floating around that Google began using dates on search engine results pages (SERPs) to show when content was last updated. It makes sense that more recent content is considered more relevant, especially considering the speed of business these days. Use this to your advantage as a content marketer by updating posts when you’ve got something new to say. You’ll preserve the URL while providing the more relevant content.
5. Bullets and numbered lists. We could also call this ranking factor “writing for the web.” Google likes bits of content that are easy to digest. This is a reminder to make sure what you’re producing is going to be easy for your audience to read. With that being said, don’t force it.
6. Too many outbound links. Linking to quality sites can help boost your ranking, but don’t go crazy with it. Stuffing a page with too many outbound links can distract readers from the actual content and affect your search engine ranking.
7. Useful content/Content that provides value and unique insights. Google favors content that is the most useful to searchers. That is, it provides answers to people searching, likely in a short amount of time. It’s not overly complicated. Content should also provide new, useful information and “unique insights”—a ranking factor meant to weed out affiliate sites.
8. Dwell time. How much time someone spends on a page is important to you and to Google. Create content that draws readers in and makes them want to read the next sentence. This starts with a compelling headline and should also include what the folks at Backlinko call “bucket brigades”—short sentences that keep readers engaged.
9. Number of tweets/Facebook likes. Google doesn’t just rank content based on its own data—it also looks at how others view your company website. If you tweet a lot, and you have a lot of followers (or Facebook likes, if that suits you business), then Google trusts that you can be more trusted than others that have few followers and lack a social presence. So yes, building a profile across social channels is important to not only your distribution efforts, but also your Google rankings.
10. Official LinkedIn company page. Similar to the number of tweets or followers you have, Google will see your business as more legit if you have a proper LinkedIn company page and actual employees listed. This helps you build authority (and hey, there’s a good chance you should be active on LinkedIn anyway).
Ranking Factors You Shouldn’t (Necessarily) Prioritize
1. Content length. It’s true that Google tends to like posts that are over 1,000 words, and for some topics, that’s reasonable. However, your goal in content marketing is to create the right amount of content specifically for your audience. Don’t keep adding content to boost results. You’ll lose your audience—and their trust.
2. Keyword density. It’s obviously important that a webpage includes keywords, but more isn’t always better. It’s most important to write your articles and posts for humans.
3. YouTube. Google might give preference to YouTube videos around content you might search on; this doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and begin creating videos. Follow your strategy and create the types of content that work for your audience. If that happens to be videos at some point, great. If not, don’t sweat it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you really should take a look at the full list when you have some time. But keep in mind that the more audience-focused your content is, the better success you’ll have with it.
Adding content to an existing one can be an indicator to Google that your post/article contains latest, relevant and more information which would be good for information loving audience. The only thing you have to ensure is that you don’t unnecessarily try to engage your audience by lengthening your content without adding any valuable information which is worth reading.